Title: In Treatment
Summary: For the first time in his life, Draco hated his punctuality.
Disclaimer: All Harry Potter characters herein are the property of J.K. Rowling and Bloomsbury/Scholastic. No copyright infringement is intended.
Epilogue compliant? Nope, but it is compliant with the rest of DH.
Word Count: 3,000
Author's Notes: reira_21, I think I took the phrase ‘psychological insight’ a bit too literally. I hope you like it, even if the premise is a tad on the cracky side. This sort of took on a life of its own. Thanks to the lovely mods for being so helpful and understanding.
For the first time in his life, Draco hated his punctuality. Every Tuesday he had a standing appointment with his Ministry appointed Healer for therapy at 4:45, for which he arrived at 3:30 without fail. It was a trait that he was praised for, and something he was proud of usually.
He sat in the same overstuffed armchair reading the same worn magazine as always. The receptionist tried her best to ignore him just like always, but she shifted uncomfortably and her chair squeaked. Like always.
Unlike any time before, however, someone joined him at 4:17. Draco looked up from an article on magical plants he nearly had memorized and he felt his entire body tense. Potter- it was Harry Potter. He looked frenzied and pale as he leaned heavily on the receptionist’s desk.
“Can I help you, Mr. Potter?” the woman asked, clearly surprised by the overall wildness of Potter’s demeanor.
“I…” Potter let out a sharp gust of air through his nose, and Draco laid down his magazine. “I need to see the Healer. It’s urgent. I don’t have an appointment, but she’ll see me. She said I could come any time.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” the receptionist said, holding up a finger as she slid out of her chair and started down the corridor. “Go ahead and have a seat, Mr. Potter.”
Harry nodded and turned around, all franticness drained from his body as he sank bonelessly onto the leather sofa across from Draco’s chair.
Logically, Draco knew that they were both in the waiting room to see a therapist who had been appointed because they were deemed unable to cope with their emotions in a healthy manner, but watching Potter’s childish display made Draco feel infinitely better about himself. He supposed that he could still be in shock because of his rather violent change in routine, but he felt the near uncontrollable urge to laugh. He knew he should pick his magazine back up and continue reading the story about plants and pretend there was nothing out of the ordinary, but he couldn’t. Potter was underneath his skin, and bitterness bubbled at the back of his throat as he watched Potter set there with his eyes closed, seemingly free of everything.
He couldn’t stop himself; Draco’s mouth was moving and it was too late to stop it. “I’m amazed by your progress Potter, you’re obviously taking care of your problems remarkably well.”
Potter didn’t miss a beat. “As well as you are, I warrant.”
Potter grinned but didn’t open his eyes. “Not the top of your game.”
Draco clenched his fists. “Potter, we’re waiting to see a therapist, I would say it’s quite obvious that I’m not on the top of my game. This isn’t a game.”
Potter was making himself entirely too comfortable. “That’s definitely a safe assumption.”
Draco’s skin began to crawl, and he gripped the arms of his chair tightly. “I…stop talking to me. You’re not supposed to be here. This is my regularly scheduled appointment time and you’re encroaching. You’re not any more important than any other patient, you can’t just come in any time you want.”
“I’m considered terribly unstable, I may snap at any moment. I’m a high risk patient.”
“You’re an arse, that’s what you are,” Draco snarled through his teeth.
“You’re an arse who has miraculously found a way to ruin every fucking aspect of my life.”
The grin that surfaced on Potter’s face was almost more than Draco could handle. Draco hated Potter more in that moment than he could ever begin to articulate, and he couldn’t stay there- in that room, in that chair- anymore.
Apparating home felt wrong- his skin itched from the inside- but he could breathe again.
He could breathe, that is, until he got the owl from his Healer.
He tried not to be on time. He performed his morning routine slowly, forcing himself to focus on the menial tasks before him rather than the onslaught of emotion that had taken up permanent residence in his head. He was mostly unsuccessful and after a brief interlude of furious cleaning that only served to make more of a mess, Draco left.
They were to meet at a Ministry-appointed conference room. Neutral territory. They were to leave their wands with the Healer at the door. They had a list of provided talking points, a pot of tea that remained full and hot no matter how much they drank, and an hour and a half.
When Draco arrived late, which is to say right on time, Potter wasn’t there. The Healer chatted with him amiably and refused to die, no matter how much Draco cursed her in his head. He had never been much good with wandless magic.
Potter was seven minutes late, which meant they had to be in a room together for seven less minutes than originally anticipated. One hour and twenty-three minutes. It wasn’t impossible.
Potter was in a foul mood. He flopped down into the plush Ministry-appointed chair and crossed his arms, glaring across the table at Draco, who decided that it was a very good time for tea. After what was another three minutes of silence, Potter ripped the small stack of papers in front of him off of the table and cleared his throat. His tone was one of boredom as he began to read. “As an intrigal part of your healing process it is important to be exposed to people and places that allow you to revisit past emotions in a healthy manner.” Potter snorted, rolling his eyes but continuing. “In order to jump start this process, I have decided to utilize a form of exposure therapy that should prove beneficial to both parties. I ask you both to discuss the provided points as the time allotted allows. You are encouraged to discuss your own mental and emotional growth, but this is not required of you.”
Panic flooded Draco’s chest. “I’m not talking to you about any aspect of my mental and emotional growth! I could go the rest of my life never seeing you again.”
Potter tossed the parchment over to Draco. “You must do as the Ministry commands, lest you be committed to a nice padded hospital. I don’t like it any more than you.”
Draco crossed his legs and leaned forward, scanning the carefully printed letter. It bore the Ministry seal, and Draco recognized the threat. He looked back up to Potter, who was shuffling through the talking points provided nonchalantly. Despite the apparent violent mood swings he seemed fine, or as fine as Potter had ever been. “What did you do to deserve this?” Draco asked pointedly. “What in the world could Potter do to warrant the same punishment as a Death Eater? Torture? Maim? Murder?”
“It is not required of me to share that information with you,” Potter replied, not looking up from the papers. “Now Malfoy, we must first discuss what it is that got us into this situation. What choices did we make that got us where we are?”
Draco clenched his jaw so tightly it hurt. “I chose to Apparate and it brought me here. Now you.”
Potter tossed the papers back onto the table and leaned back in his chair, steepling his fingers. “I walked. Slowly. I don’t think that is what the question was referring to. Come on Malfoy, one can’t expect to heal if one doesn’t reveal.”
Draco took two very deep breaths. “I’m not the only one in therapy here, we both are, so I’d appreciate it if you didn’t play my Healer. She plays Healer enough for the both of you, believe me. And I think we both know the choices I made to get me in this situation, Potter. I wasn’t building cabinets in my spare time just for the sheer fun of it.”
“You should open up a business. Malfoy Cabinetry. Has a certain ring to it,” Potter muttered. “Too bad your master work was burned, it was definitely a show piece.”
Draco’s hands began to shake and he smelled smoke for the briefest of seconds. All he could think to say was ‘Fuck you, Potter’, but he didn’t say it. He simply drank his tea.
Potter sighed. “As for me, I think my file says something about illusions of grandeur or superiority complex or some other bullshit,” Potter said with a vague wave. “I’m mostly here because I’m Harry Potter and can’t have possibly come out of the war unscathed.”
The tone in which he said it told Draco much more than the words. There was something else that Potter wasn’t saying. Draco tapped his fingertips on the table and looked toward the door. “How do they know if we’re talking about these topics? They aren’t watching us, are they? Listening? Might as well just sit in the corner with a notebook taking notes if that’s the case.”
“Don’t know,” Potter replied, drawing his legs into his chair with him, folding almost impossibly small. “What are they going to do to us if we don’t? Can’t get much worse than this.”
Draco silently agreed and picked at a loose thread in his chair.
The remainder of their first meeting passed in thick silence.
Potter was only five minutes late to their next meeting, but his mood was perhaps darker than before. “We’ve been threatened with Veritaserum. They must have found out that we didn’t talk last time and now they’re threatening to dose us with Veritaserum. Don’t drink the tea, you haven’t drank any of the tea, have you?”
Draco set the pot back down before pouring any tea for himself. “They can’t do that, can they? We aren’t being interrogated.”
“I signed a vague consent form after it was decided I was going to undergo therapy, I’m sure you did to. They can do whatever they want.”
Draco hated this whole fucking process. A lot. He hated the Ministry, he hated the stupid Healers, and he hated being locked in a room with someone who made him hurt. He didn’t want reminded of what he had done, and just looking at Potter made him remember. More than anything he hated being forced to recount the war, and that’s what Veritaserum would make them do. Talk about things that were best forgotten.
“What’s the next question?” Potter looked at him frantically, almost like he had forgotten where he was for a moment. Draco reached across the table and picked up the papers, finding the next talking point on the list. “Pinpoint an exact moment in your life that drastically altered your journey. Were the choices you made because of this moment helpful or hurtful to you? If you could go back and make a different choice, would you still be in your current situation? Discuss.”
“I don’t have one of those,” Potter muttered. “Next question.”
Potter leaned against the wall. “I don’t care what you think Malfoy. I’ve never had a choice in anything, Malfoy. The choices were always made for me. It doesn’t matter if they were helpful or hurtful, they had to be done. It’s pointless to think ‘what if’, it’s a step in the wrong direction. Next question.”
Draco couldn’t help his anger. “I’m not the one who’s forcing you to do this Potter, so don’t talk to me like I’m stupid. If you want the next question you can do it yourself. I’m done.”
Potter ruffled his hair and huffed, fisting his hands at his sides. “Fuck Malfoy, what is your problem? That question was fucking useless and I just…” He looked like he wanted to hit something, and Draco tensed despite himself. He took two long strides towards the table and picked up the papers. “The next one is just as stupid. ‘Name three things about the other person that you admire’. How the fuck is this helpful?”
Draco hesitated for a brief moment before saying, “I admire your courage, for one. I begrudgingly admire your flying. And I admire your uncanny ability to find new ways to make me hate you.”
Potter snorted but refused to look at him. He scratched at his scraggly stubble and muttered, “I admire your posture, your…I don’t know, refusal to give up or something, and your hair.”
Draco raised his eyebrows. “Really? That’s what you come up with?”
“It’s better than your backhanded ‘I admire that you find ways to make me hate you’. That’s just laziness.”
Draco couldn’t help but laugh, and Potter joined in hesitantly. They fell silent after a few minutes, Draco didn’t count, and Draco lowered his head to the table. “Life is easier when you don’t have choices. When you are forced to do things. You don’t have to worry about anything, you know? And when it doesn’t work out, or you fuck it up, you have an excuse to fall back on. You can always say it wasn’t your choice, it wasn’t your fault. Believe me Potter, I know. It may be terrible while it’s happening because you think ‘I didn’t choose this for myself’, but you would have chosen it if you could have. I know and you know that we wouldn’t have done anything differently if we could go back. You would still choose to be the hero and I would still choose to be the villain. It’s pointless to talk about because we know we can say ‘the choices I made didn’t have any effect in the long run’, but it’s just an excuse to separate ourselves from what we’ve done. We still did it. We could have said no, but we didn’t. That’s the choice. We could have died, but we didn’t. That’s the choice.” Draco couldn’t look at Potter, he just stared at his empty tea cup. “And I don’t care if there’s Veritaserum in it, I’m having some fucking tea.”
Potter finally sat down, silently sliding his cup toward Draco.
“I’m sorry to hear about Pansy. I know how close you were.”
Draco swallowed thickly and stared at the steam coming off of his tea. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Potter sighed, chewing his bottom lip. “I didn’t ask you to.”
Draco’s tears made loud clicking noises as they hit the highly-polished table. Potter’s chair squeaked as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair.
“I don’t know why she did it. Why would she…”
Potter set the stack of questions back down on the table.
There was a chess set in the middle of the table, the white pieces facing Draco’s side of the table. He and Potter arrived at the same time, stopping in the doorway briefly. Their questions were gone and had been replaced with chess.
“I hate chess,” Draco grumbled, but sat down anyway.
Potter chuckled. “Then it will be easy to beat you.”
Draco rolled his eyes and promptly beat Potter.
Draco had begun hating the conference room. He hated the table, he hated the chairs, and he hated that it was always too cold. An hour and a half was too much time a week to spend in the same damn room avoiding having to talk about anything of any substance. It was getting harder and harder to do.
Their tenth week led to Potter arriving before him. He looked pale and grave, and Draco knew that something was wrong. Something was very wrong. He didn’t want to ask. His stomach ached and he was reminded of Pansy all over again.
Draco sat down across from Potter and watched him twist his hands together. Potter swallowed thickly and his voice shook as he spoke. “I killed someone. It was just some young kid who was caught up with shit he shouldn’t have been caught up in and he threw a Killing Curse at Ron and I hit him. Over and over. I beat his head in. Ron had to pull me off of him. I broke both of my hands. The Auror office has suspended me until I complete this therapy. So there. That’s what I did to get here. I can’t fucking sleep and if you tell anyone this I will make your life even more hellacious than I already do. They went through hell trying to keep it under wraps, they don’t want people to know that I’m fucking insane.”
“You’re not insane,” Draco said before he could think.
Potter began to laugh hysterically, tears streaming down his face. His face flushed bright red and he doubled over, laying his head on the table. Draco sat with Potter until he calmed back down. He was seven minutes late leaving the session that day.
“They trust us now, you know that? She doesn’t even stay the whole time anymore. She leaves early because she knows we won’t leave.”
Draco tossed a lump of sugar at Potter’s head and he swatted it away effortlessly. “We should go somewhere else. We could go get something other than tea and do something other than play chess and talk about our feelings.”
Draco raised his eyebrows. “Or we could just go home.”
Potter’s mouth opened, but he closed it again. “Well, yes. I suppose.”
Draco couldn’t help but grin. “Do you want to go have something other than tea and do something other than play chess and talk about our feelings?”
Potter shrugged but his cheeks reddened.
Something came over Draco. He liked his routine. He liked being on time and he liked being able to plan everything out. He liked sitting in the same chair and he liked reading the same stupid story about plants over and over. He liked the life he had built up around himself. But despite everything, despite his aversion to change, he liked Potter. He liked the tightness in his chest and throat and he liked the frustration that Potter roused in him. Perhaps he was a bit of a masochist, it would explain a lot.
Without thinking, he reached across the table and took Potter’s hand in his.
Potter’s blush darkened and he squeezed Draco’s fingers. “Yeah, I want to go somewhere. Come with me?”
Draco’s smile stretched across his face. “I think that would be a step in the right direction.”